British MPs, ‘Bob-bhai’ and ‘Barry-bhai’ win Padma Shri for standing by India
‘Bob-bhai’ and ‘Barry-bhai’ may not be widely known in India, but the Padma Shri for these two British MPs is an acknowledgement of their consistent pro-India stance on key issues in the cut-and-thrust of diaspora politics in the UK.
Bob Blackman is the Conservative MP for Harrow East, while Barry Gardiner is the Labour MP for Brent North. Both constituencies have a large population of Indian origin and the two MPs have been closely associated with community events and issues.
Of more significance is their overtly pro-New Delhi stand on sensitive issues such as Jammu and Kashmir in the British parliament. During recent debates, Blackman and Gardiner have steadfastly held New Delhi’s corner, when hardly any Indian-origin MP speaks on the issues.
“It is a wonderful recognition of the immense contribution both have made to strengthening UK-India relations over many years”, said Manoj Ladwa, a leading London-based community figure and a long-term confidante of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“It also demonstrates the importance India places on the UK-India relationship and signals that post-Brexit, India will wish to deeply engage with the UK as it charts its own course outside the European Union”, Ladwa, who heads media group India Inc, added.
Blackman and Gardiner are known to be close to Modi since his days as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, when he was less than welcome in the west. They have since been at the forefront of events in London to mark Modi’s electoral wins in 2014 and 2019, and to welcome him on UK visits.
Blackman previously said after a contentious debate in the British parliament on Jammu and Kashmir: “One notices that the pro-Pakistan lobby in the UK is extremely effective and they make sure their MPs turn up in their support via all possible parliamentary contributions”.
“The debate on Jammu and Kashmir was a classic example. It was just me and one other MP speaking in support of India. Hardly anyone speaking on the day spoke of the human rights violations by Pakistan and ignored the series of violations by them over the years”.
Blackman has often highlighted the plight of Kashmiri Pandits, supported revocation of Article 370, and flayed Pakistan’s support to terror groups and their depredations in India, particularly during the February 2019 Pulwama attack.
Blackman said he is “deeply humbled and delighted” at being awarded Padma Shri, and called it an award for the “whole Indian diaspora” in the UK. As in India-related statements, he ended his reaction with ‘Jai Hind’ and added: ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’.